The Owl Service by Alan Garner
London : Collins, 1969. Stated "Fourth impression, January, 1969" on the copyright page. Hardcover. 156 pages ; 22 cm. $15 shilling dust jacket. A hint of cigar smells to pages. Pages toned. Binding is firm. No markings within the book.
The curious pattern on the dinner service which Alison finds in the loft bears a strange resemblance to an owl, a resemblance which at first seems to be of passing interest but little significance. The moment the owl service is discovered, however, marks the beginning of a chain of events both disturbing and inexplicable which affect Alison, her step-brother Roger, and in particular the Welsh boy Gwyn, so responsive to the environment in which he considers himself to be trapped. Relentlessly the three young people are drawn into a situation from which there seems to be no escape, for the pattern of a tragic Welsh legend has begun to repeat itself and a modern drama is being played out against a background of ancient jealousies. Under stress, Gwyn tries to shake off his involvement with the people and the place, but there is no easy way out and as the tension mounts it becomes apparent that only by facing the situation can it be resolved.
Alan Garner is now firmly established as one of the most imaginative of all modern writers for young people. In his three earlier novels, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, The Moon of Gomrath, and Elidor, he fused fantasy and reality with a sure touch, earning high praise from the critics. The Owl Service will undoubtedly stimulate further comment, for it is not like any other book. It is an emotional story which well repays more than one reading. The brooding atmosphere of Wales, the superbly Realised characters, and the compelling power of the predicament in which they find themselves all contribute to a story not easily forgotten.
With The Owl Service Alan Garner won both the Carnegie Medal and The Guardian prize for the best book of the year for young people.
THE CRITICS ACCLAIMED
The Owl Service
'Alan Garner's The Owl Service is not meant only for children or anyone else; it's a novel; and not many better novels will be published this year. In the big house in a Welsh valley are Alison and Roger, young English people newly made stepbrother and stepsister by the marriage of Alison's mother to Roger's father. And mixing uneasily with them on Christian-name terms of not-quite-equality is Gwyn, son of the housekeeper, grammar-school boy, brighter than either. And there's a power stirring in the valley that dates from sad and distant myth: that forces these three, like many in then-place before, into a vicious-triangle pattern that's likely to break up in violent disaster. The power grows, throbs nearer, builds to unbearable tension, and comes to wild release in the last few p ages.' -John Rowe Townsend, The Guardian
'Without doubt Mr. Alan Garner is one of the most exciting writers for young people today. He is producing work with strong plot structure, perceptive characterisation and vivid language. Furthermore, there is in his writing a basic integrity within which the poetic imagination may have free rein. It is a combination of qualities that creates literature that will be read and read again.' -The Times Educational Supplement
'Alan Garner's new book is a rare, imaginative feat and the taste that it leaves is haunting.' -Naomi Lewis, The Observer
'This book is a superb piece of architecture in which every detail plays its proper part.' -Margery Fisher, Growing Point
Also by ALAN GARNER
The Weirdstone of Brisingamen 'Alan Garner's The Weirdstone of Brisingamen has a compelling, strong, Wagnerian quality . . . A modern brother and sister stumble on the secret of an ancient legend. Susan realises that the heirloom crystal drop she wears is the spellstone vital to the good wizard Cadellin in his fight against Nastrond, champion of the powers of darkness.' -Sunday Times
The Moon of Gomrath
'Weird and marvellously evocative tale of Celtic mysteries, elves, spirits and strange presences felt, mingled to make high adventure for Colin and Susan—and peril for Susan. It is a timeless story; full of wonder and magic, terror and beauty. A fine author indeed, and perhaps one of a new generation of classics.' -Books and Bookmen
'Although the story leaps and Hashes along with the poetic authority of genuine folk lore, the thoughtful reader could find in it a fable of our time.' -The Teacher
(CARNEGIE MEDAL RUNNER-UP)
'A spell-binder. The secret of Garner's magic is that it is stripped of whimsy. Four children exploring a church being dismantled for slum clearance enter the other world of Elidor, which is threatened by the powers of evil. A beautiful work of poetic imagination, it deserves to become a classic of fantasy.' -Arthur Calder-Marshall, The Listener
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